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Gay Catholic youth not wanted at Australian WYD (2008)

Gay Catholic group Acceptance had planned a forum to be held during the Pope's World Youth Day celebrations in Australia in July 2008. It was to be called “Living a Christian Commitment: Different Sexualities Among Catholic Youth”. However, after pressure from the Vatican (not from "Catholics") as the title of the news story says), the Jesuits withdrew their offer to host the gay young people. And the next pope, a Jesuit, believes that the Devil is involved....*

Catholics pressure gay forum
by Ani Lamont 
Sydney Star Observer, 26 June 2008

The Catholic Church has been accused of contributing to youth suicide because it stymied the organisation of a conference on sexuality and religion.

Gay Catholic group Acceptance had planned for the “Living a Christian Commitment: Different Sexualities Among Catholic Youth” forum to be held during World Youth Day celebrations next month, but has had to change location after the planned venue pulled out following pressure from the Catholic Church.

PFLAG president Judy Brown said the church’s move could have dire consequences.

“If people are not accepted when they come out and are thrown out they tend to gravitate to the city and get involved with drugs and the wrong sorts of people, which contributes to youth suicide,” she told Sydney Star Observer.

“With the Catholic Church not wanting to enter into a dialogue or provide support, they are contributing to that youth suicide problem.”

The Jesuit group MAGiS offered to host the event as part of its Youth Festival at St Aloysius College in North Sydney, but MAGiS provincial delegate Edward Dooley said the group was instructed to withdraw the forum by World Youth Day officials.

“Somewhere down the line WYD found out about the Acceptance workshop, MAGiS has no knowledge of how they’ve received that information, and we were instructed by WYD officials to withdraw the event,” he said. “But we have always been willing and supportive of Acceptance’s workshop.”

Acceptance was then offered the use of St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Newtown, where it meets for mass, but decided against it after learning of the pressures placed on MAGiS.

“We had everything organised and then 48 hours after finalising with MAGiS, we got a phone call and all they said was that instructions had come from the top that the workshop couldn’t go ahead,” Acceptance co-convenor Paul Harris said.

“Acceptance does not aim to be confronting. It’s meant to be a positive thing that gives gay and lesbian people a sense of belonging. We’d gone to extraordinary lengths to get people with important stories to tell and to make sure that nothing in the forum went against the church.”

Ms Brown said PFLAG had planned to have two parents at the event to speak about their experiences as Catholics with gay children.

“The majority of our PFLAG group are Catholic or Christians of some denomination and the majority of people who contact us tend to be Catholic — they tend to have the most difficulty with coming out or accepting their sons and daughters,” she said.

Harris said the event would go ahead, but the group is now looking for a non-church affiliated venue.

“The message, as far as I can tell, is that they don’t want dialogue unless they can control it,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to be solving anything, but dialogue is healthy. So, although we’re very disappointed about what’s happened we haven’t lost hope and we are looking for a new venue.”

* “Pope Francis on gay rights: His 5 worst quotes”, Salon, 2013-03-14.


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